I mean, do you really have to make up some silly story about a belt-wearing half-human insect-man (think "The Fly") perched on the ceiling spitting some acidic phlegm from his mouth that dissolves a metal spike on the ground below him (how was that for a first try? ;>) to associate the above character with "dissolve"?
Excellent story for a first try. You would do splendidly with RTK
The thing is that this is extremely easy and effective to associate the writing with the keyword, so why not use a story method if that works?
But in my experience, many naive learners start out with this skewed idea of kanji as ideograms, and Heisig certainly doesn't do anything to discourage this. On the contrary, the sheer amount of time RTK has you spend reinforcing kanji<->English keyword connections can only encourage this sort of thinking (to one degree or another) on both the conscious and subconscious level.
I think that anyone who finishes RTK will learn to have a very very open mind to what kanji can and cannot be
You haven't offered any explanation why thinking of kanji as ideographs is such a bad thing. Kanji carry sound and ideas. Who would want to ignore the ideas? That would be ignoring a very useful attribute of the kanji.
See, this is exactly what I don't get about Heisig. Why are kanji "crazy"? Why does learning kanji have to involve "making sense of craziness?" As far as I'm concerned, Heisig _encourages_ this view of kanji as wacky hieroglyphs.
No, the Japanese writing system is complex and wacky enough, all on its own. Heisig encourages a more rational view, to see the kanji clearly and discretely.
Which brings us to the larger problem... how well does the keyword "dissolve" _really_ help a learner understand words like 融資, 融通, and 融合? That's a rhetorical question -- I'm sure you (or any Heisig devotee) can come up with some explanation of the connection. But at some point, don't you ever feel like you (and Heisig) are _overcomplicating_ all of this rather than making it easier? I mean, you're making up elaborate stories to associate a character with an English keyword, then in turn having to make other associations to connect those keywords with actual Japanese words that are often only tangentially related to the keywords.
I mean, it just seems like a [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine]Rube Goldberg machine[/url] to me.
The answer is in your own writing. Kanji keywords are only tangentially related to the Japanese words. And further, kanji writings themselves are at best only tangentially related to their core keywords (more often they are not at all easy to relate). So kanji writings and meanings are chaotic. But the goal is to bring order to this beutiful chaos so that you can learn to read it nice and simple.
I'm just wondering how do YOU go about learning something like 融資? Are you just going to learn this out of thin air? Are you going to learn the compound kanji as two shapes of total 29 brush strokes with no rhyme or reason or relation to anything else? I doubt it.
You have to make some associations otherwise you're wasting energy. 融 in 融資 has the same writing as in 融く. Are you going to remember these completely distinclty? I wouldn't. And yet associating 融資 with 融く is just as hard as with "dissolve".
I mean, I see how it could be "fun" in some way -- and if there's one thing I give Heisig credit for, it's that he seems to have figured out how to make kanji study enjoyable for certain types of people (which is no small feat.) Still, it just seems like a lot of unnecessary work -- work that takes your time and attention away from the actual Japanese language.
Also, let me add that it's also a rather poor use of the beginning student's time to learn 「融」 months (or years?) before they will have the necessary foundation in the language to understand words like 融資, 融通, and 融合 in context.
See, some naive learners (two can play at this game
) end up thinking that the communicational value of Japanese words is related how hard the words are to write. That is not the case, since the complexity of the writing of kanji and kanji compounds has no relation to the function of the words in the Japanese language.
昼御飯 (御 is often written in kana) uses kanji that all have a frequency of over 1000 (in newspapers), yet the word for a midday meal (lunch) is such a trivial word that people commonly learn in beginner Japanese.
融資 (ゆうし) may seem 'complex' in its writing but it is a very simple and common word that can be quite easily incorporated in a dialogue using only 1st day beginner Japanese grammar. However it isn't used in beginner courses, because its so much more useful to talk about pencils
My question is -- is this whole system really worth the time and effort it asks you to invest? Given the ultimate goal of becoming literate in Japanese, does Heisig really offer concrete, tangible benefits over a more context-based system of kanji study?
I have yet to see a compelling argument in favor of this.
Since you discounted my insight because "I may have been studying ineffectively before RTK"
, you are not likely to ever get a complete answer to your question unless someone does a controlled study.
A certain Khatsumoto from AJATT who started with RTK, claims that in 18 months he went from zero to "enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese".
I have asked several times for people here to tell us how long they studied Japanese before they got to an advanced reading level, but nobody has yet given any answer to this question.
The argument against RTK for the "serious" learner is that the serious learner has a goal of actually becoming functionally proficient in the Japanese language (i.e. able to handle authentic material) as soon as possible, and for these people, expending a not-insignificant amount of time and effort on an English-keyword-and-story-based kanji study program that has nothing to do with the actual Japanese language is not a particularly effective use of their resources.
Yes, one has the goal of being able to handle authentic material, like work material, books, newspapers, reports, manuals. How much of that material could I learn to handle in 3 months, 1 to 2 hours a day, of basic Japanese study? Very little I think.
As a long term goal to read, I see the benefit of using a kanji writing learning order that is not by usage frequency but by ease of learning.
Not that there's anything wrong with this -- I would suspect that very few people (this includes myself) went into Japanese knowing from day one that it was going to become one of their major life studies. This is yet another argument for making one's study of the language as meaningful as it can be from the earliest stage possible.
(This will probably be my last extensive post on this topic -- I think I've made all the points I wanted to make -- but of course I'd still be happy to respond to individual arguments about anything I've said.)
In earlier posts I stated that I myself did not jump into RTK first thing, and that I believe that getting a taste of Japanese before diving into RTK is likely to improve the odds of completing RTK and putting it to good use.
Post RTK however, it is diffult not to feel like "why didn't I just do this a year ago!".